Make money talks as light hearted as possible.
The easiest way to take the pressure off of a “money talk” is to turn it into a date. Visit a nearby coffee shop or stay home and open a bottle of wine. Share your financial dreams and what makes them important to you. Spark the conversation by asking “If you had $75,000, what would you do? No judgment.”
Make these dates a regular event on your calendar and soon money talks will not be a big deal and you will also have regular one-on-one time. By having these regular talks and learning about each other’s hopes and dreams, you will come to better understand your day-to-day financial decisions.
What’s your money philosophy?
To fully understand how you and your partner feel about money, and your financial compatibility, you first need to understand how your money outlook was formed.
What were your parents saving and spending habits? How did they communicate about money? Do you have an emotional connection to money? Do you have a tendency to shop to make yourself feel better when you are down or maybe you are so concerned with financial matters that you take saving to an extreme? You need to lay all your cards on the table and be honest.
If you’re having trouble bringing the subject up, you could try a money quiz like this one on Motley Fool. Each of you can take it privately and then share the results with one another.
Take a deep dive into debt.
This can be a difficult topic to bring up but it is best to get it out in the open before it becomes a problem. Pull up credit reports from annualcreditreport.com and review all major debts like student loans, home loans, and any large credit card balances.
Find out if they have filed for bankruptcy. Getting this out in the open sooner rather than later will help avoid you being caught off guard when you try to make a large purchase together down the road.
This is also a good time to talk about how each of you feel about debt. Some people are comfortable carrying credit card balances, other are not, which can be a big area of stress.
Set goals together.
What are your goals? Do you have short-term or long-term goals? Do you want to save money to travel or would you rather save money for a down payment on a home? What about their goals? Part of being in a partnership is deciding on goals and working to reach them together. Talking about your financial goals will also allow you to find out what is most important to each of you and give you time to plan ahead.
The dreaded “B” word…budget.
Do you work from a monthly budget? Does your partner? Do you decide to just “see how it goes” for the month or do you sit down and write out your income and expenses? Now is the best time to learn how to manage your money together, as a true partnership. Budgeting is an absolute must or you may find yourself coming up short each month.
Find out each other’s retirement plan.
Assuming you’re together for the long haul, a retirement savings will eventually be an important source of income in your household. Do each of you have an IRA that you contribute to? Many employers provide one and it is important to take advantage of it.
To merge, or not to merge, your bank accounts.
This can be one of the stickiest topics couples will face. It’s important to discuss this before you tie the knot. While a marriage is a union of two people, some couples find it best to not combine their finances completely and choose to maintain separate bank accounts. There are pros and cons to each and you can read more about those here: 10 Things You Should Know About Joining Finances in Marriage.